TRANSCRIPT: Presidential debate on foreign policy at Lynn University

Presidential Debate

Below is the transcript of Monday night’s presidential debate at Lynn  University in Boca Raton, Fla.

SCHIEFFER: Good evening from the campus of Lynn University here in  Boca Raton, Florida. This is the fourth and last debate of the 2012 campaign,  brought to you by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

This one’s on foreign policy. I’m Bob Schieffer of CBS News. The questions  are mine, and I have not shared them with the candidates or their aides.

The audience has taken a vow of silence — no applause, no reaction of any  kind, except right now when we welcome President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt  Romney.


Gentlemen, your campaigns have agreed to certain rules and they are simple.  They’ve asked me to divide the evening into segments. I’ll pose a question at  the beginning of each segment. You will each have two minutes to respond and  then we will have a general discussion until we move to the next segment.

Tonight’s debate, as both of you know, comes on the 50th anniversary of the  night that President Kennedy told the world that the Soviet Union had installed  nuclear missiles in Cuba, perhaps the closest we’ve ever come to nuclear war.  And it is a sobering reminder that every president faces at some point an  unexpected threat to our national security from abroad.

So let’s begin.

SCHIEFFER: The first segment is the challenge of a changing Middle  East and the new face of terrorism. I’m going to put this into two segments so  you’ll have two topic questions within this one segment on the subject. The  first question, and it concerns Libya. The controversy over what happened there  continues. Four Americans are dead, including an American ambassador. Questions  remain. What happened? What caused it? Was it spontaneous? Was it an  intelligence failure? Was it a policy failure? Was there an attempt to mislead  people about what really happened?

Governor Romney, you said this was an example of an American policy in the  Middle East that is unraveling before our very eyes.

SCHIEFFER: I’d like to hear each of you give your thoughts on that.  Governor Romney, you won the toss. You go first.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Bob. And thank you for agreeing to moderate this  debate this evening. Thank you to Lynn University for welcoming us here. And Mr.  President, it’s good to be with you again. We were together at a humorous event  a little earlier, and it’s nice to maybe funny this time, not on purpose. We’ll  see what happens.

This is obviously an area of great concern to the entire world, and to  America in particular, which is to see a — a complete change in the — the  structure and the — the environment in the Middle East.

With the Arab Spring, came a great deal of hope that there would be a change  towards more moderation, and opportunity for greater participation on the part  of women in public life, and in economic life in the Middle East. But instead,  we’ve seen in nation after nation, a number of disturbing events. Of course we  see in Syria, 30,000 civilians having been killed by the military there. We see  in — in Libya, an attack apparently by, I think we know now, by terrorists of  some kind against — against our people there, four people dead.

Our hearts and — and minds go out to them. Mali has been taken over, the northern part of Mali by Al Qaeda type individuals. We have in — in Egypt, a Muslim Brotherhood president. And so what we’re seeing is a pretty dramatic reversal in the kind of hopes we had for that region. Of course the greatest threat of all is Iran, four years closer to a nuclear weapon. And — and we’re going to have to recognize that we have to do as the president has done. I congratulate him on — on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in Al Qaeda.

But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. We’re going to have to put in  place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the — the world of Islam  and other parts of the world, reject this radical violent extremism, which is –  it’s certainly not on the run.

ROMNEY: It’s certainly not hiding. This is a group that is now  involved in 10 or 12 countries, and it presents an enormous threat to our  friends, to the world, to America, long term, and we must have a comprehensive  strategy to help reject this kind of extremism.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President?

OBAMA: Well, my first job as commander in chief, Bob, is to keep the  American people safe. And that’s what we’ve done over the last four years.

We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on those who actually  killed us on 9/11. And as a consequence, Al Qaeda’s core leadership has been  decimated.

In addition, we’re now able to transition out of Afghanistan in a responsible  way, making sure that Afghans take responsibility for their own security. And  that allows us also to rebuild alliances and make friends around the world to  combat future threats. Now with respect to Libya, as I indicated in the last  debate, when we received that phone call, I immediately made sure that, number  one, that we did everything we could to secure those Americans who were still in  harm’s way; number two, that we would investigate exactly what happened, and  number three, most importantly, that we would go after those who killed  Americans and we would bring them to justice. And that’s exactly what we’re  going to do.

But I think it’s important to step back and think about what happened in  Libya. Keep in mind that I and Americans took leadership in organizing an  international coalition that made sure that we were able to, without putting  troops on the ground at the cost of less than what we spent in two weeks in  Iraq, liberate a country that had been under the yoke of dictatorship for 40  years.

Got rid of a despot who had killed Americans and as a consequence, despite  this tragedy, you had tens of thousands of Libyans after the events in Benghazi  marching and saying America is our friend. We stand with them.

OBAMA: Now that represents the opportunity we have to take advantage  of. And, you know, Governor Romney, I’m glad that you agree that we have been  successful in going after Al Qaida, but I have to tell you that, you know, your  strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map and is not  designed to keep Americans safe or to build on the opportunities that exist in  the Middle East.

ROMNEY: Well, my strategy is pretty straightforward, which is to go  after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to — to  kill them, to take them out of the picture.

But my strategy is broader than that. That’s — that’s important, of course.  But the key that we’re going to have to pursue is a — is a pathway to get the  Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own.

We don’t want another Iraq, we don’t want another Afghanistan. That’s not the  right course for us. The right course for us is to make sure that we go after  the — the people who are leaders of these various anti-American groups and  these — these jihadists, but also help the Muslim world.

And how do we do that? A group of Arab scholars came together, organized by  the U.N., to look at how we can help the — the world reject these — these  terrorists. And the answer they came up with was this:

One, more economic development. We should key our foreign aid, our direct  foreign investment, and that of our friends, we should coordinate it to make  sure that we — we push back and give them more economic development.

Number two, better education.

Number three, gender equality.

Number four, the rule of law. We have to help these nations create civil  societies.

But what’s been happening over the last couple of years is, as we’ve watched  this tumult in the Middle East, this rising tide of chaos occur, you see Al  Qaida rushing in, you see other jihadist groups rushing in. And — and they’re  throughout many nations in the Middle East.

Now, it is absolutely true that we cannot just meet these challenges  militarily. And so what I’ve done throughout my presidency and will continue to  do is, number one, make sure that these countries are supporting our  counterterrorism efforts.

Number two, make sure that they are standing by our interests in Israel’s  security, because it is a true friend and our greatest ally in the region.

Number three, we do have to make sure that we’re protecting religious  minorities and women because these countries can’t develop unless all the  population, not just half of it, is developing.

Number four, we do have to develop their economic — their economic  capabilities.

But number five, the other thing that we have to do is recognize that we  can’t continue to do nation building in these regions. Part of American  leadership is making sure that we’re doing nation building here at home. That  will help us maintain the kind of American leadership that we need.

SCHIEFFER: Let me interject the second topic question in this segment  about the Middle East and so on, and that is, you both mentioned — alluded to  this, and that is Syria.

The war in Syria has now spilled over into Lebanon. We have, what, more than  100 people that were killed there in a bomb. There were demonstrations there,  eight people dead. Mr. President, it’s been more than a year since you saw –  you told Assad he had to go. Since then, 30,000 Syrians have died. We’ve had  300,000 refugees.

The war goes on. He’s still there. Should we reassess our policy and see if  we can find a better way to influence events there? Or is that even  possible?

And you go first, sir.

OBAMA: What we’ve done is organize the international community, saying  Assad has to go. We’ve mobilized sanctions against that government. We have made  sure that they are isolated. We have provided humanitarian assistance and we are  helping the opposition organize, and we’re particularly interested in making  sure that we’re mobilizing the moderate forces inside of Syria.

But ultimately, Syrians are going to have to determine their own future. And  so everything we’re doing, we’re doing in consultation with our partners in the  region, including Israel which obviously has a huge interest in seeing what  happens in Syria; coordinating with Turkey and other countries in the region  that have a great interest in this.

This — what we’re seeing taking place in Syria is heartbreaking, and that’s  why we are going to do everything we can to make sure that we are helping the  opposition. But we also have to recognize that, you know, for us to get more  entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step, and we have to do so making  absolutely certain that we know who we are helping; that we’re not putting arms  in the hands of folks who eventually could turn them against us or allies in the  region.

And I am confident that Assad’s days are numbered. But what we can’t do is to  simply suggest that, as Governor Romney at times has suggested, that giving  heavy weapons, for example, to the Syrian opposition is a simple proposition  that would lead us to be safer over the long term.

SCHIEFFER: Governor?

ROMNEY: Well, let’s step back and talk about what’s happening in Syria  and how important it is. First of all, 30,000 people being killed by their  government is a humanitarian disaster. Secondly, Syria is an opportunity for us  because Syria plays an important role in the Middle East, particularly right  now.

ROMNEY: Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route  to the sea. It’s the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, which  threatens, of course, our ally, Israel. And so seeing Syria remove Assad is a  very high priority for us. Number two, seeing a — a replacement government  being responsible people is critical for us. And finally, we don’t want to have  military involvement there. We don’t want to get drawn into a military  conflict.

And so the right course for us, is working through our partners and with our  own resources, to identify responsible parties within Syria, organize them,  bring them together in a — in a form of — if not government, a form of — of  — of council that can take the lead in Syria. And then make sure they have the  arms necessary to defend themselves. We do need to make sure that they don’t  have arms that get into the — the wrong hands. Those arms could be used to hurt  us down the road. We need to make sure as well that we coordinate this effort  with our allies, and particularly with — with Israel.

But the Saudi’s and the Qatari, and — and the Turks are all very concerned  about this. They’re willing to work with us. We need to have a very effective  leadership effort in Syria, making sure that the — the insurgent there are  armed and that the insurgents that become armed, are people who will be the  responsible parties. Recognize — I believe that Assad must go. I believe he  will go. But I believe — we want to make sure that we have the relationships of  friendship with the people that take his place, steps that in the years to come  we see Syria as a — as a friend, and Syria as a responsible party in the Middle  East.

This — this is a critical opportunity for America. And what I’m afraid of is  we’ve watched over the past year or so, first the president saying, well we’ll  let the U.N. deal with it. And Assad — excuse me, Kofi Annan came in and said  we’re going to try to have a ceasefire. That didn’t work. Then it went to the  Russians and said, let’s see if you can do something. We should be playing the  leadership role there, not on the ground with military.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

ROMNEY: …by the leadership role.

OBAMA: We are playing the leadership role. We organized the Friends of  Syria. We are mobilizing humanitarian support, and support for the opposition.  And we are making sure that those we help are those who will be friends of ours  in the long term and friends of our allies in the region over the long term. But  going back to Libya — because this is an example of how we make choices. When  we went in to Libya, and we were able to immediately stop the massacre there,  because of the unique circumstances and the coalition that we had helped to  organize. We also had to make sure that Moammar Qaddafi didn’t stay there.

And to the governor’s credit, you supported us going into Libya and the  coalition that we organized. But when it came time to making sure that Qadhafi  did not stay in power, that he was captured, Governor, your suggestion was that  this was mission creep, that this was mission muddle.

Imagine if we had pulled out at that point. You know, Moammar Gadhafi had  more American blood on his hands than any individual other than Osama bin Laden.  And so we were going to make sure that we finished the job. That’s part of the  reason why the Libyans stand with us.

But we did so in a careful, thoughtful way, making certain that we knew who  we were dealing with, that those forces of moderation on the ground were ones  that we could work with, and we have to take the same kind of steady, thoughtful  leadership when it comes to Syria. That’s exactly what we’re doing.

SCHIEFFER: Governor, can I just ask you, would you go beyond what the  administration would do, like for example, would you put in no-fly zones over  Syria?

ROMNEY: I don’t want to have our military involved in Syria. I don’t  think there is a necessity to put our military in Syria at this stage. I don’t  anticipate that in the future.

As I indicated, our objectives are to replace Assad and to have in place a  new government which is friendly to us, a responsible government, if possible.  And I want to make sure they get armed and they have the arms necessary to  defend themselves, but also to remove — to remove Assad.

But I do not want to see a military involvement on the part of our — of our  troops.


ROMNEY: And this isn’t — this isn’t going to be necessary.

We — we have, with our partners in the region, we have sufficient resources  to support those groups. But look, this has been going on for a year. This is a  time — this should have been a time for American leadership. We should have  taken a leading role, not militarily, but a leading role organizationally,  governmentally to bring together the parties; to find responsible parties.

As you hear from intelligence sources even today, the — the insurgents are  highly disparate. They haven’t come together. They haven’t formed a unity group,  a council of some kind. That needs to happen. America can help that happen. And  we need to make sure they have the arms they need to carry out the very  important role which is getting rid of Assad.

SCHIEFFER: Can we get a quick response, Mr. President, because I want  to…


OBAMA: Well, I’ll — I’ll be very quick. What you just heard Governor  Romney said is he doesn’t have different ideas. And that’s because we’re doing  exactly what we should be doing to try to promote a moderate Syrian leadership  and a — an effective transition so that we get Assad out. That’s the kind of  leadership we’ve shown. That’s the kind of leadership we’ll continue to  show.

SCHIEFFER: May I ask you, you know, during the Egyptian turmoil, there  came a point when you said it was time for President Mubarak to go.

OBAMA: Right.

SCHIEFFER: Some in your administration thought perhaps we should have  waited a while on that. Do you have any regrets about that?

OBAMA: No, I don’t, because I think that America has to stand with  democracy. The notion that we would have tanks run over those young people who  were in Tahrir Square, that is not the kind of American leadership that John F.  Kennedy talked about 50 years ago.

But what I’ve also said is that now that you have a democratically elected  government in Egypt, that they have to make sure that they take responsibility  for protecting religious minorities. And we have put significant pressure on  them to make sure they’re doing that; to recognize the rights of women, which is  critical throughout the region. These countries can’t develop if young women are  not given the kind of education that they need.

They have to abide by their treaty with Israel. That is a red line for us,  because not only is Israel’s security at stake, but our security is at stake if  that unravels.

They have to make sure that they’re cooperating with us when it comes to  counterterrorism.

And we will help them with respect to developing their own economy, because  ultimately what’s going to make the Egyptian revolution successful for the  people of Egypt, but also for the world, is if those young people who gathered  there are seeing opportunities.

Their aspirations are similar to young people’s here. They want jobs, they  want to be able to make sure their kids are going to a good school. They want to  make sure that they have a roof over their heads and that they have the  prospects of a better life in the future.

And so one of the things that we’ve been doing is, is, for example,  organizing entrepreneurship conferences with these Egyptians to give them a  sense of how they can start rebuilding their economy in a way that’s noncorrupt,  that’s transparent. But what is also important for us to understand is, is that  for America to be successful in this region there’s some things that we’re going  to have to do here at home as well.

You know, one of the challenges over the last decade is we’ve done  experiments in nation building in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and we’ve  neglected, for example, developing our own economy, our own energy sectors, our  own education system. And it’s very hard for us to project leadership around the  world when we’re not doing what we need to do…

SCHIEFFER: Governor Romney, I want to hear your response to that, but  I would just ask you, would you have stuck with Mubarak?

ROMNEY: No. I believe, as the president indicated, and said at the  time that I supported his — his action there. I felt that — I wish we’d have  had a better vision of the future.

I wish that, looking back at the beginning of the president’s term and even  further back than that, that we’d have recognized that there was a growing  energy and passion for freedom in that part of the world, and that we would have  worked more aggressively with our friend and with other friends in the region to  have them make the transition towards a more representative form of government,  such that it didn’t explode in the way that it did.

But once it exploded, I felt the same as the president did, which is these  freedom voices and the streets of Egypt, where the people who were speaking of  our principles and the President Mubarak had done things which were unimaginable  and the idea of him crushing his people was not something that we could possibly  support.

Let me step back and talk about what I think our mission has to be in the  Middle East and even more broadly, because our purpose is to make sure the world  is more — is peaceful. We want a peaceful planet. We want people to be able to  enjoy their lives and know they’re going to have a bright and prosperous future,  not be at war. That’s our purpose.

And the mantle of leadership for the — promoting the principles of peace has  fallen to America. We didn’t ask for it. But it’s an honor that we have it.

But for us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be  strong. And that begins with a strong economy here at home. Unfortunately, the  economy is not stronger. When the — when the president of Iraq — excuse me, of  Iran, Ahmadinejad, says that our debt makes us not a great country, that’s a  frightening thing.

Former chief of the — Joint Chiefs of Staff said that — Admiral Mullen said  that our debt is the biggest national security threat we face. This — we have  weakened our economy. We need a strong economy.

We need to have as well a strong military. Our military is second to none in  the world. We’re blessed with terrific soldiers, and extraordinary technology  and intelligence. But the idea of a trillion dollar in cuts through  sequestration and budget cuts to the military would change that. We need to have  strong allies. Our association and connection with our allies is essential to  America’s strength. We’re the great nation that has allies, 42 allies and  friends around the world.

ROMNEY: And, finally, we have to stand by our principles. And if we’re  strong in each of those things, American influence will grow. But unfortunately,  in nowhere in the world is America’s influence will grow. But unfortunately, in  — nowhere in the world is America’s influence greater today than it was four  years ago.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

ROMNEY: And that’s because we’ve become weaker in each of those  four…


SCHIEFFER: …you’re going to get a chance to respond to that, because  that’s a perfect segue into our next segment, and that is, what is America’s  role in the world? And that is the question. What do each of you see as our role  in the world, and I believe, Governor Romney, it’s your chance to go first.

ROMNEY: Well I — I absolutely believe that America has a — a  responsibility, and the privilege of helping defend freedom and promote the  principles that — that make the world more peaceful. And those principles  include human rights, human dignity, free enterprise, freedom of expression,  elections. Because when there are elections, people tend to vote for peace. They  don’t vote for war. So we want to promote those principles around the world. We  recognize that there are places of conflict in the world.

We want to end those conflicts to the extent humanly possible. But in order  to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong. America  must lead. And for that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy here at  home. You can’t have 23 million people struggling to get a job. You can’t have  an economy that over the last three years keeps slowing down its growth rate.  You can’t have kids coming out of college, half of them can’t find a job today,  or a job that’s commensurate with their college degree. We have to get our  economy going.

And our military, we’ve got to strengthen our military long-term. We don’t  know what the world is going to throw at us down the road. We — we make  decisions today in the military that — that will confront challenges we can’t  imagine. In the 2000 debates, there was no mention of terrorism, for instance.  And a year later, 9/11 happened. So, we have to make decisions based upon  uncertainty, and that means a strong military. I will not cut our military  budget. We have to also stand by our allies. I — I think the tension that  existed between Israel and the United States was very unfortunate.

I think also that pulling our missile defense program out of Poland in the  way we did was also unfortunate in terms of, if you will, disrupting the  relationship in some ways that existed between us.

And then, of course, with regards to standing for our principles, when –  when the students took to the streets in Tehran and the people there protested,  the Green Revolution occurred, for the president to be silent I thought was an  enormous mistake. We have to stand for our principles, stand for our allies,  stand for a strong military and stand for a stronger economy.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President?

OBAMA: America remains the one indispensable nation. And the world  needs a strong America, and it is stronger now than when I came into office.

Because we ended the war in Iraq, we were able to refocus our attention on  not only the terrorist threat, but also beginning a transition process in  Afghanistan.

It also allowed us to refocus on alliances and relationships that had been  neglected for a decade.

And Governor Romney, our alliances have never been stronger, in Asia, in  Europe, in Africa, with Israel, where we have unprecedented military and  intelligence cooperation, including dealing with the Iranian threat.

But what we also have been able to do is position ourselves so we can start  rebuilding America, and that’s what my plan does. Making sure that we’re  bringing manufacturing back to our shores so that we’re creating jobs here, as  we’ve done with the auto industry, not rewarding companies that are shipping  jobs overseas.

Making sure that we’ve got the best education system in the world, including  retraining our workers for the jobs of tomorrow.

Doing everything we can to control our own energy. We’ve cut our oil imports  to the lowest level in two decades because we’ve developed oil and natural gas.  But we also have to develop clean energy technologies that will allow us to cut  our exports in half by 2020. That’s the kind of leadership that we need to  show.

And we’ve got to make sure that we reduce our deficit. Unfortunately,  Governor Romney’s plan doesn’t do it. We’ve got to do it in a responsible way by  cutting out spending we don’t need, but also asking the wealthiest to pay a  little bit more. That way we can invest in the research and technology that’s  always kept us at the cutting edge.

Now, Governor Romney has taken a different approach throughout this campaign.  Both at home and abroad, he has proposed wrong and reckless policies. He’s  praised George Bush as a good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody who’s  — who shows great wisdom and judgment. And taking us back to those kinds of  strategies that got us into this mess are not the way that we are going to  maintain leadership in the 21st century.

SCHIEFFER: Governor Romney, “wrong and reckless” policies?

ROMNEY: I’ve got a policy for the future and agenda for the future.  And when it comes to our economy here at home, I know what it takes to create 12  million new jobs and rising take-home pay. And what we’ve seen over the last  four years is something I don’t want to see over the next four years.

The president said by now we’d be a 5.4 percent unemployment. We’re 9 million  jobs short of that. I will get America working again and see rising take-home  pay again, and I’ll do it with five simple steps. Number one, we are going to  have North American energy independence. We’re going to do it by taking full  advantage of oil, coal, gas, nuclear and our renewables.

Number two, we’re going to increase our trade. Trade grows about 12 percent  year. It doubles about every — every five or so years. We can do better than  that, particularly in Latin America.

The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of  fully. As a matter of fact, Latin America’s economy is almost as big as the  economy of China. We’re all focused on China. Latin America is a huge  opportunity for us — time zone, language opportunities.

Number three, we’re going to have to have training programs that work for our  workers and schools that finally put the parents and the teachers and the kids  first, and the teachers’ unions going to have to go behind.

And then we’re going to have to get to a balanced budget. We can’t expect  entrepreneurs and businesses large and small to take their life savings or their  company’s money and invest in America if they think we’re headed to the road to  Greece. And that’s where we’re going right now unless we finally get off this  spending and borrowing binge. And I’ll get us on track to a balanced budget.

And finally, number five, we’ve got to champion small business. Small  business is where jobs come from. Two-thirds of our jobs come from small  businesses. New business formation is down to the lowest level in 30 years under  this administration. I want to bring it back and get back good jobs and rising  take-home pay.

OBAMA: Well, let’s talk about what we need to compete. First of all,  Governor Romney talks about small businesses. But, Governor, when you were in  Massachusetts, small businesses development ranked about 48th, I think out of 50  states in Massachusetts, because the policies that you are promoting actually  don’t help small businesses.

And the way you define small businesses includes folks at the very top. And  they include you and me. That’s not the kind of small business promotion we  need. But let’s take an example that we know is going to make a difference in  the 21st century and that’s our education policy. We didn’t have a lot of chance  to talk about this in the last debate.

You know, under my leadership, what we’ve done is reformed education, working  with governors, 46 states. We’ve seen progress and gains in schools that were  having a terrible time. And they’re starting to finally make progress.

And what I now want to do is to hire more teachers, especially in math and  science, because we know that we’ve fallen behind when it comes to math and  science. And those teachers can make a difference.

Now, Governor Romney, when you were asked by teachers whether or not this  would help the economy grow, you said this isn’t going to help the economy  grow.

OBAMA: When you were asked about reduced class sizes, you said class  sizes don’t make a difference.

But I tell you, if you talk to teachers, they will tell you it does make a  difference. And if we’ve got math teachers who are able to provide the kind of  support that they need for our kids, that’s what’s going to determine whether or  not the new businesses are created here. Companies are going to locate here  depending on whether we’ve got the most highly skilled workforce.

And the kinds of budget proposals that you’ve put forward, when we don’t ask  either you or me to pay a dime more in terms of reducing the deficit, but  instead we slash support for education, that’s undermining our long-term  competitiveness. That is not good for America’s position in the world, and the  world notices.

SCHIEFFER: Let me get back to foreign policy.


SCHIEFFER: Can I just get back…

ROMNEY: Well — well, I need to speak a moment…


ROMNEY: … if you’ll let me, Bob, just about education…


ROMNEY: … because I’m — I’m so proud of the state that I had the  chance to be governor of.

We have every two years tests that look at how well our kids are doing.  Fourth graders and eighth graders are tested in English and math. While I was  governor, I was proud that our fourth graders came out number one of all 50  states in English, and then also in math. And our eighth graders number one in  English and also in math. First time one state had been number one in all four  measures.

How did we do that? Well, Republicans and Democrats came together on a  bipartisan basis to put in place education principles that focused on having  great teachers in the classroom.

OBAMA: Ten years earlier…

ROMNEY: And that was — that was — that was what allowed us to become  the number one state in the nation.

OBAMA: But that was 10 years before you took office.


ROMNEY: And then you cut education spending when you came into  office.

ROMNEY: The first — the first — the first — and we kept our schools  number one in the nation. They’re still number one today.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

ROMNEY: And the principles that we put in place, we also gave kids not  just a graduation exam that determined whether they were up to the skills needed  to — to be able compete, but also if they graduated the quarter of their class,  they got a four-year tuition- free ride at any Massachusetts public institution  of higher learning.

OBAMA: That happened before you came into office.

SCHIEFFER: Governor…

ROMNEY: That was actually mine, actually, Mr. President. You got that  fact wrong.


SCHIEFFER: Let me get — I want to try to shift it, because we have  heard some of this in the other debates.

Governor, you say you want a bigger military. You want a bigger Navy. You  don’t want to cut defense spending. What I want to ask you — we were talking  about financial problems in this country. Where are you going to get the  money?

ROMNEY: Well, let’s come back and talk about the military, but all the  way — all the way through. First of all, I’m going through from the very  beginning — we’re going to cut about 5 percent of the discretionary budget,  excluding military. That’s number one.

SCHIEFFER: But can you do this without driving deeper…


ROMNEY: The good news is (inaudible). I’d be happy to have you take a  look. Come on our website. You look at how we get to a balanced budget within  eight to 10 years. We do it by getting — by reducing spending in a whole series  of programs. By the way, number one I get rid of is Obamacare.

There are a number of things that sound good, but frankly, we just can’t  afford them. And that one doesn’t sound good and it’s not affordable. So I’d get  rid of that one from day one. To the extent humanly possible, we get that out.  We take program after program that we don’t absolutely have to have, and we get  rid of them.

Number two, we take some programs that we are doing to keep, like Medicaid,  which is a program for the poor; we’ll take that healthcare program for the poor  and we give it to the states to run because states run these programs more  efficiently.

As a governor, I thought please, give me this program. I can run this more  efficiently than the federal government and states, by the way, are proving it.  States like Arizona, Rhode Island have taken these — these Medicaid dollars;  have shown they can run these programs more cost-effectively. I want to do those  two things and get this — get this to a balanced budget with eight — eight to  10 years.

But the military — let’s get back to the military, though.

(CROSSTALK) SCHIEFFER: That’s what I’m trying…


OBAMA: He should have answered the first question.

OBAMA: Look, Governor Romney’s called for $5 trillion of tax cuts that  he says he’s going to pay for by closing deductions. Now, the math doesn’t work,  but he continues to claim that he’s going to do it. He then wants to spend  another $2 trillion on military spending that our military is not asking  for.

Now, keep in mind that our military spending has gone up every single year  that I’ve been in office. We spend more on our military than the next 10  countries combined; China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, you name it. The  next 10. And what I did was work with our joint chiefs of staff to think about,  what are we going to need in the future to make sure that we are safe?

And that’s the budget that we’ve put forward. But, what you can’t do is spend  $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military is not asking for,  $5 trillion on tax cuts. You say that you’re going to pay for it by closing  loopholes and deductions, without naming what those loopholes and deductions  are. And then somehow you’re also going to deal with the deficit that we’ve  already got. The math simply doesn’t work. But when it comes to our military,  what we have to think about is not, you know just budgets, we’ve got to think  about capabilities.

We need to be thinking about cyber security. We need to be talking about  space. That’s exactly what our budget does, but it’s driven by strategy. It’s  not driven by politics. It’s not driven by members of Congress, and what they  would like to see. It’s driven by, what are we going to need to keep the  American people safe? That’s exactly what our budget does, and it also then  allows us to reduce our deficit, which is a significant national security  concern. Because we’ve got to make sure that our economy is strong at home so  that we can project military power overseas.

ROMNEY: I’m pleased that I’ve balanced budgets. I was on the world of  business for 25 years. If you didn’t balance your budget, you went out of  business. I went into the Olympics that was out of balance, and we got it on  balance, and made a success there. I had the chance to be governor of a state.  Four years in a row, Democrats and Republicans came together to balance the  budget. We cut taxes 19 times and balanced our budget. The president hasn’t  balanced a budget yet. I expect to have the opportunity to do so myself.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

ROMNEY: I’m going to be able to balance the budget. Let’s talk about  military spending, and that’s this.


SCHIEFFER: Thirty seconds.

ROMNEY: Our Navy is old — excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than at  any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their  mission. We’re now at under 285. We’re headed down to the low 200s if we go  through a sequestration. That’s unacceptable to me.

I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy. Our  Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in  1947.

We’ve changed for the first time since FDR — since FDR we had the — we’ve  always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once. Now  we’re changing to one conflict. Look, this, in my view, is the highest  responsibility of the President of the United States, which is to maintain the  safety of the American people.

And I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is a  combination of the budget cuts the president has, as well as the sequestration  cuts. That, in my view, is making — is making our future less certain and less  secure.

OBAMA: Bob, I just need to comment on this.

First of all, the sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is  something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.

The budget that we are talking about is not reducing our military spending.  It is maintaining it.

But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our  military works.

You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did  in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the  nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers,  where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear  submarines.

OBAMA: And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re  counting slips. It’s what are our capabilities. And so when I sit down with the  Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we  going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps  faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of  support that they need when they come home.

OBAMA: And that is not reflected in the kind of budget that you’re  putting forward because it just doesn’t work.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

OBAMA: And, you know, we visited the website quite a bit and it still  doesn’t work.

SCHIEFFER: A lot to cover. I’d like — I’d like to move to the next  segment: red lines, Israel and Iran.

Would either of you — and you’ll have two minutes — and, President Obama,  you have the first go at this one — would either of you be willing to declare  that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States, which, of course, is  the same promise that we give to our close allies like Japan.

And if you made such a declaration, would not that deter Iran? It’s certainly  deterred the Soviet Union for a long, long time when we made that — we made –  we made that promise to our allies.

Mr. President?

OBAMA: First of all, Israel is a true friend. It is our greatest ally  in the region. And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I’ve  made that clear throughout my presidency. And…

SCHIEFFER: So you’re — you’re saying we’ve already made that  declaration.

OBAMA: I will stand with Israel if they are attacked. And this is the  reason why, working with Israel, we have created the strongest military and  intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history.

In fact, this week we’ll be carrying out the largest military exercise with  Israel in history, this very week. But to the issue of Iran, as long as I’m  president of the United States Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that  clear when I came into office.

OBAMA: We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest  sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their  currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest  level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is  in a shambles.

And the reason we did this is because a nuclear Iran is a threat to our  national security, and it is a threat to Israel’s national security. We cannot  afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.

Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. And for them to be able to provide  nuclear technology to non-state actors, that’s unacceptable. And they have said  that they want to see Israel wiped off the map.

So the work that we’ve done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a  choice. They can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or they  will have to face a united world and a United States president, me, who said  we’re not going to take any options off the table.

The disagreement I have with Governor Romney is that, during the course of  this campaign, he’s often talked as if we should take premature military action.  I think that would be a mistake, because when I’ve sent young men and women into  harm’s way, I always understand that that is the last resort, not the first  resort.

SCHIEFFER: Two minutes.

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, I want to underscore the same point the  president mad,e which is that if I’m President of the United States, when I’m  President of the United States, we will stand with Israel.

And if Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not  just culturally, but militarily. That’s number one.

Number two, with regards to Iran and the threat of Iran, there’s no question  but that a nuclear Iran, a nuclear-capable Iran is unacceptable to America. It  presents a threat not only to our friends but ultimately a threat to us to have  Iran have nuclear material, nuclear weapons that could be used against us or  used to be threatening to us.

ROMNEY: It is also essential for us to understand what our mission is  in Iran, and that is to dissuade Iran from having a nuclear weapon through  peaceful and diplomatic means. And crippling sanctions are something I called  for five years ago, when I was in Israel, speaking at the Herzliya Conference. I  laid out seven steps, crippling sanctions were number one. And they do work.  You’re seeing it right now in the economy. It’s absolutely the right thing to  do, to have crippling sanctions. I would have put them in place earlier. But  it’s good that we have them.

Number two, something I would add today is I would tighten those sanctions. I  would say that ships that carry Iranian oil, can’t come into our ports. I  imagine the E.U. would agree with us as well. Not only ships couldn’t, but I’d  say companies that are moving their oil can’t, people who are trading in their  oil can’t. I would tighten those sanctions further. Secondly, I’d take on  diplomatic isolation efforts. I’d make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under  the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict  him for it. I would also make sure that their diplomats are treated like the  pariah they are around the world. The same way we treated the apartheid  diplomats of South Africa.

We need to increase pressure time, and time again on Iran because anything  other than a — a — a solution to this, which says — which stops this — this  nuclear folly of theirs, is unacceptable to America. And of course, a military  action is the last resort. It is something one would only – only consider if all  of the other avenues had been — had been tried to their full extent.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask both of you, there — as you know, there are  reports that Iran and the United States a part of an international group, have  agreed in principle to talks about Iran’s nuclear program. What is the deal, if  there are such talks? What is the deal that you would accept, Mr. President?

OBAMA: Well, first of all those are reports in the newspaper. They are  not true. But our goal is to get Iran to recognize it needs to give up its  nuclear program and abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place.  Because they have the opportunity to reenter the community of nations, and we  would welcome that.

There — there are people in Iran who have the same aspirations as people all  around the world for a better life. And we hope that their leadership takes the  right decision, but the deal we’ll accept is they end their nuclear program.  It’s very straightforward. And I’m glad that Governor Romney agrees with the  steps that we’re taking. You know, there have been times, Governor, frankly,  during the course of this campaign, where it sounded like you thought that you’d  do the same things we did, but you’d say them louder and somehow that — that  would make a difference.

And it turns out that the work involved in setting up these crippling  sanctions is painstaking. It’s meticulous. We started from the day we got into  office. And the reason is was so important — and this is a testament to how  we’ve restored American credibility and strength around the world — is we had  to make sure that all the countries participated, even countries like Russia and  China. Because if it’s just us that are imposing sanctions — we’ve had  sanctions in place a long time. It’s because we got everybody to agree that Iran  is seeing so much pressure. And we’ve got to maintain that pressure.

There is a deal to be had, and that is that they abide by the rules that have  already been established. They convince the international community they are not  pursuing a nuclear program.

There are inspections that are very intrusive. But over time, what they can  do is regain credibility. In the meantime, though, we’re not going to let up the  pressure until we have clear evidence that that takes place.

And one last thing — just — just to make this point. The clock is ticking.  We’re not going to allow Iran to perpetually engage in negotiations that lead  nowhere. And I’ve been very clear to them. You know, because of the intelligence  coordination that we do with a range of countries, including Israel, we have a  sense of when they would get breakout capacity, which means that we would not be  able to intervene in time to stop their nuclear program.

And that clock is ticking. And we’re going to make sure that if they do not  meet the demands of the international community, then we are going to take all  options necessary to make sure they don’t have a nuclear weapon.

SCHIEFFER: Governor?

ROMNEY: I think from the very beginning, one of the challenges we’ve  had with Iran is that they have looked at this administration, and felt that the  administration was not as strong as it needed to be.

I think they saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength.  And I say that because from the very beginning, the president in his campaign  four years ago, said he would meet with all the world’s worst actors in his  first year, he’d sit down with Chavez and Kim Jong-il, with Castro and President  Ahmadinejad of Iran.

And I think they looked and thought, well, that’s an unusual honor to receive  from the President of the United States. And then the president began what I  have called an apology tour, of going to various nations in the Middle East and  criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness.

Then when there were dissidents in the streets of Tehran, a Green Revolution,  holding signs saying, is America with us, the president was silent. I think they  noticed that as well.

And I think that when the president said he was going to create daylight  between ourselves and Israel, that they noticed that as well.

All of these things suggested, I think, to the Iranian mullahs that, hey, you  know, we can keep on pushing along here, we can keep talks going on, we’re just  going to keep on spinning centrifuges.

Now there are some 10,000 centrifuges spinning uranium, preparing to create a  nuclear threat to the United States and to the world. That’s unacceptable for  us, and it’s essential for a president to show strength from the very beginning,  to make it very clear what is acceptable and not acceptable.

And an Iranian nuclear program is not acceptable to us. They must not develop  nuclear capability. And the way to make sure they understand that is by having,  from the very beginning, the tightest sanctions possible. They need to be  tightened. Our diplomatic isolation needs to be tougher. We need to indict  Ahmadinejad. We need to put the pressure on them as hard as we possibly can,  because if we do that, we won’t have to take the military action.

OBAMA: Bob, let me just respond.

Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me  apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during  the course of this campaign. And every fact checker and every reporter who’s  looked at it, Governor, has said this is not true.

And when it comes to tightening sanctions, look, as I said before, we’ve put  in the toughest, most crippling sanctions ever. And the fact is, while we were  coordinating an international coalition to make sure these sanctions were  effective, you were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing  business with the Iranian oil sector.

So I’ll let the American people decide, judge, who’s going to be more  effective and more credible when it comes to imposing crippling sanctions.

And with respect to our attitude about the Iranian revolution, I was very  clear about the murderous activities that had taken place and that was contrary  to international law and everything that civilized people stand for.

And — and so the strength that we have shown in Iran is shown by the fact  that we’ve been able to mobilize the world.

When I came into office, the world was divided. Iran was resurgent. Iran is  at its weakest point, economically, strategically, militarily, then since –  then in many years. And we are going to continue to keep the pressure on to make  sure that they do not get a nuclear weapon. That’s in America’s national  interest and that will be the case so long as I’m president.

ROMNEY: We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran. We’re four years  closer to a nuclear Iran. And — and — we should not have wasted these four  years to the extent they — they continue to be able to spin these centrifuges  and get that much closer. That’s number one.

Number two, Mr. President, the reason I call it an apology tour is because  you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to  Turkey and Iraq. And by the way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the  region, but you went to the other nations.

And by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those  nations, and on Arabic TV, you said that America had been dismissive and  derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations.

Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other  nations from dictators.

OBAMA: Bob, let me — let me respond.

If we’re going to talk about trips that we’ve taken — when I was a candidate  for office, first trip I took was to visit our troops. And when I went to Israel  as a candidate, I didn’t take donors. I didn’t attend fundraisers. I went to Yad  Beshef (ph), the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and  why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable.

And then I went down to the border towns of Storok (ph), which had  experienced missiles raining dowm from Hamas. And I saw families there who  showed me there where missiles had come down near their children’s bedrooms. And  I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids. Which is why as  president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles.

OBAMA: So that’s how I’ve used my travels, when I travel to Israel and  when I travel to the region. And the — the central question at this point is  going to be: Who is going to be credible to all parties involved? And they can  look at my track record, whether it’s Iran sanctions, whether it’s dealing with  counterterrorism, whether it’s supporting democracy, whether it’s supporting  women’s rights, whether it’s supporting religious minorities.

And they can say that the President of the United States and the United  States of America has stood on the right side of history. And that kind of  credibility is precisely why we’ve been able to show leadership on a wide range  of issues facing the world right now.

SCHIEFFER: What if — what if the prime minister of Israel called you  on the phone and said, “Our bombers are on the way. We’re going to bomb  Iran.”

What do you –

ROMNEY: Bob, let’s not go into hypotheticals of that nature. Our  relationship with Israel, my relationship with the prime minister of Israel is  such that we would not get a call saying our bombers are on the way, or their  fighters are on the way. This is the kind of thing that would have been  discussed and thoroughly evaluated well before that kind of –


SCHIEFFER: So you’d say it just wouldn’t happen?

That’s –

SCHIEFFER: OK. Let’s see what –

ROMNEY: But let me — let me come back — we can come back. Let’s come  back to what the president was speaking about, which is what’s happening in the  world and the president’s statement that things are going so well.

Look, I look at what’s happening around the world, and i see Iran four years  closer to a bomb. I see the Middle East with a rising tide of violence, chaos,  tumult. I see jihadists continuing to spread, whether they’re rising or just  about the same level, hard to precisely measure, but it’s clear they’re there.  They’re very strong.

I see Syria with 30,000 civilians dead, Assad still in power. I see our trade  deficit with China, larger than it’s — growing larger every year, as a matter  of fact.

I look around the world and I don’t feel that you see North Korea, continuing  to export their nuclear technology, Russia said they’re not going to follow  Nunn-Lugar any more. They’re back away from a nuclear proliferation treaty that  we had with them.

ROMNEY: I look around the world, I don’t see our influence growing  around the world. I see our influence receding, in part because of the failure  of the president to deal with our economic challenges at home; in part because  of our withdrawal from our commitment to our military in the way I think it  ought to be; in part because of the — the — the turmoil with Israel.

I mean, the president received a letter from 38 Democrat senators saying the  tensions with Israel were a real problem. They asked him, please repair the  tension — Democrat senators — please repair the tension…

SCHIEFFER: All right.

ROMNEY: … the damage in his — in his own party.

OBAMA: Governor, the problem is, is that on a whole range of issues,  whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s Afghanistan, whether it’s Iraq,  whether it’s now Iran, you’ve been all over the map.

I mean, I’m — I’m pleased that you now are endorsing our policy of applying  diplomatic pressure and potentially having bilateral discussions with the  Iranians to end their nuclear program. But just a few years ago you said that’s  something you’d never do.

In the same way that you initially opposed a timetable in Afghanistan, now  you’re for it, although it depends. In the same way that you say you would have  ended the war in Iraq, but recently gave a speech saying that we should have  20,000 more folks in there. The same way that you said that it was mission creep  to go after Qaddafi.

When it comes to going after Usama bin Laden, you said, well, any president  would make that call. But when you were a candidate in 2008, as I was, and I  said if I got bin Laden in our sights I would take that shot, you said we  shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get one man.

OBAMA: And you said we should ask Pakistan for permission. And if we  had asked Pakistan permission, we would not have gotten him. And it was worth  moving heaven and earth to get him.

You know, after we killed bin Laden I was at ground zero for a memorial and  talked to a young women who was four years old when 9/11 happened. And the last  conversation she had with her father was him calling from the twin towers,  saying “Peyton (ph), I love you and I will always watch over you.” And for the  next decade, she was haunted by that conversation. And she said to me, “You  know, by finally getting bin Laden, that brought some closure to me.”

And when we do things like that — when we bring those who have harmed us to  justice, that sends a message to the world and it tells Peyton (ph) that we did  not forget her father. And I make that point because that’s the kind of clarity  of leadership, and those decisions are not always popular. Those decisions  generally — generally are not poll-tested. And even some in my own party,  including my current vice president, had the same critique as you did.

But what the American people understand is that I look at what we need to get  done to keep the American people safe and to move our interests forward, and I  make those decisions.

SCHIEFFER: All right, let’s go. And that leads us — this takes us  right to the next segment, Governor, America’s longest war, Afghanistan and  Pakistan…


SCHIEFFER: Governor, you get to go first.

ROMNEY: You can’t — but you can’t have the president just lay out a  whole series of items without giving me a chance to respond.

SCHIEFFER: With respect, sir, you had laid out quite a program…

ROMNEY: Well, that’s probably true.

SCHIEFFER: We’ll give you — we’ll catch up.

The United States is scheduled to turn over responsibility for security in  Afghanistan to the Afghan government in 2014. At that point, we will withdraw  our combat troops, leave a smaller force of Americans, if I understand our  policy, in Afghanistan for training purposes. It seems to me the key question  here is: What do you do if the deadline arrives and it is obvious the Afghans  are unable to handle their security? Do we still leave?

And I believe, Governor Romney, you go first?

ROMNEY: Well, we’re going to be finished by 2014, and when I’m  president, we’ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014. The  commanders and the generals there are on track to do so.

We’ve seen progress over the past several years. The surge has been  successful and the training program is proceeding apace. There are now a large  number of Afghan Security Forces, 350,000 that are ready to step in to provide  security and we’re going to be able to make that transition by the end of  2014.

So our troops will come home at that point.

I can tell you at the same time, that we will make sure that we look at  what’s happening in Pakistan, and recognize that what’s happening in Pakistan is  going to have a major impact on the success in Afghanistan. And I say that  because I know a lot of people that feel like we should just brush our hands and  walk away.

And I don’t mean you, Mr. President, but some people in the — in our nation  feel that Pakistan is being nice to us, and that we should walk away fro mthem.  But Pakistan is important to the region, to the world and to us, because  Pakistan has 100 nuclear warheads and they’re rushing to build a lot more.  They’ll have more than Great Britain sometime in the — in the relatively near  future.

They also have the Haqqani Network and the Taliban existent within their  country. And so a Pakistan that falls apart, becomes a failed state, would be of  extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and to us.

And so we’re going to have to remain helpful in encouraging Pakistan to move  towards a more stable government and rebuild the relationship with us. And that  means that our aid that we provide to Pakistan is going to have to be  conditioned upon certain benchmarks being met.

ROMNEY: So for me, I look at this as both a need to help move Pakistan  in the right direction, and also to get Afghanistan to be ready, and they will  be ready by the end of 2014.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President?

OBAMA: When I came into office, we were still bogged down in Iraq and  Afghanistan had been drifting for a decade. We ended the war in Iraq, refocused  our attention on Afghanistan, and we did deliver a surge of troops. That was  facilitated in part because we had ended the war in Iraq.

And we are now in a position where we have met many of the objectives that  got us there in the first place.

Part of what had happened is we’d forgotten why we had gone. We went because  there were people who were responsible for 3,000 American deaths. And so we  decimated Al Qaida’s core leadership in the border regions between Afghanistan  and Pakistan.

We then started to build up Afghan forces. And we’re now in a position where  we can transition out, because there’s no reason why Americans should die when  Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country.

Now, that transition has to take place in a responsible fashion. We’ve been  there a long time, and we’ve got to make sure that we and our coalition partners  are pulling out responsibly and giving Afghans the capabilities that they  need.

But what I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war it’s  time to do some nation building here at home. And what we can now do is free up  some resources, to, for example, put Americans back to work, especially our  veterans, rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our schools, making sure that, you  know, our veterans are getting the care that they need when it comes to  post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, making sure that the  certifications that they need for good jobs of the future are in place.

OBAMA: You know, I was having lunch with some — a veteran in  Minnesota who had been a medic dealing with the most extreme circumstances. When  he came home and he wanted to become a nurse, he had to start from scratch. And  what we’ve said is let’s change those certifications. The first lady has done  great work with an organization called Joining Forces putting our veterans back  to work. And as a consequence, veterans’ unemployment is actually now lower than  general population. It was higher when I came into office.

So those are the kinds of things that we can now do because we’re making that  transition in Afghanistan.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Let me go to Governor Romney because you talked  about Pakistan and what needs to be done there.

General Allen, our commander in Afghanistan, says that Americans continue to  die at the hands of groups who are supported by Pakistan. We know that Pakistan  has arrested the doctor who helped us catch Obama (sic) bin Laden. It still  provides safe haven for terrorists, yet we continue to give Pakistan billions of  dollars.

Is it time for us to divorce Pakistan?

ROMNEY: No, it’s not time to divorce a nation on Earth that has 100  nuclear weapons and is on the way to double that at some point, a nation that  has serious threats from terrorist groups within its nation, as I indicated  before, the Taliban, Haqqani Network.

It’s a nation that’s not like — like others and it does not have a civilian  leadership that is calling the shots there. You have the ISI, their intelligence  organization, is probably the most powerful of the — of three branches there.  Then you have the military and then you have the civilian government.

This is a nation, which, if it falls apart, if it — if it becomes a failed  state, there are nuclear weapons there and you’ve got — you’ve got terrorists  there who could grab their — their hands onto those nuclear weapons.

ROMNEY: This is — this is an important part of the world for us.  Pakistan is — is technically an ally, and they’re not acting very much like an  ally right now. But we have some work to do. And I — I don’t blame the  administration for the fact that the relationship with Pakistan is strained. We  — we had to go into Pakistan. We had to go in there to get Osama bin Laden.  That was the right thing to do. And — and that upset them, but obviously there  was a great deal of anger even before that. But we’re going to have to work with  the — with the people in Pakistan to try and help them move to a more  responsible course than the one that they’re on. And it’s important for them.  It’s important for the nuclear weapons.

It’s important for the success of Afghanistan. Because inside Pakistan, you  have a — a large group of Pashtun that are — that are Taliban. They’re going  to come rushing back in to Afghanistan when we go. And that’s one of the reasons  the Afghan Security Forces have so much work to do to be able to fight against  that. But it’s important for us to recognize that we can’t just walk away from  Pakistan. But we do need to make sure that as we — as we send support for them,  that this is tied to them making progress on — on matters that would lead them  to becoming a civil society.

SCHIEFFER: Let — let me ask you, Governor because we know President  Obama’s position on this, what is — what is your position on the use of  drones?

ROMNEY: Well I believe we should use any and all means necessary to  take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And  it’s widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support  that and entirely, and feel the president was right to up the usage of that  technology, and believe that we should continue to use it, to continue to go  after the people that represent a threat to this nation and to our friends. But  let me also note that as I said earlier, we’re going to have to do more than  just going after leaders and — and killing bad guys, important as that is.

ROMNEY: We’re also going to have to have a farm more effective and  comprehensive strategy to help move the world away from terror and Islamic  extremism. We haven’t done that yet. We talk a lot about these things, but you  look at the — the record, you look at the record. You look at the record of the  last four years and say is Iran closer to a bomb? Yes. Is the Middle East in  tumult? Yes. Is — is Al Qaeda on the run, on its heels? No. Is — are Israel  and the Palestinians closer to reaching a peace agreement?

No, they haven’t had talks in two years. We have not seen the progress we  need to have, and I’m convinced that with strong leadership and an effort to  build a strategy based upon helping these nations reject extremism, we can see  the kind of peace and prosperity the world demands.

OBAMA: Well, keep in mind our strategy wasn’t just going after bin  Laden. We created partnerships throughout the region to deal with extremism in  Somalia, in Yemen, in Pakistan.

And what we’ve also done is engaged these governments in the kind of reforms  that are actually going to make a difference in people’s lives day to day, to  make sure that their governments aren’t corrupt, to make sure that they’re  treating women with the kind of respect and dignity that every nation that  succeeds has shown and to make sure that they’ve got a free market system that  works.

So across the board, we are engaging them in building capacity in these  countries. And we have stood on the side of democracy.

One thing I think Americans should be proud of, when Tunisians began to  protest, this nation — me, my administration — stood with them earlier than  just about any country.

In Egypt we stood on the side of democracy.

In Libya we stood on the side of the people.

And as a consequence, there’s no doubt that attitudes about Americans have  changed. But there are always going to be elements in these countries that  potentially threaten the United States. And we want to shrink those groups and  those networks and we can do that.

OBAMA: But we’re always also going to have to maintain vigilance when  it comes to terrorist activities. The truth, though, is that Al Qaeda is much  weaker than it was when I came into office. And they don’t have the same  capacities to attack the U.S. homeland and our allies as they did four years  ago.

SCHIEFFER: Let’s — let’s go to the next segment, because it’s a very  important one. It is the rise of China and future challenges for America. I want  to just begin this by asking both of you, and Mr. President, you — you go first  this time.

What do you believe is the greatest future threat to the national security of  this country?

OBAMA: Well, I think it will continue to be terrorist networks. We  have to remain vigilant, as I just said. But with respect to China, China is  both an adversary, but also a potential partner in the international community  if it’s following the rules. So my attitude coming into office was that we are  going to insist that China plays by the same rules as everybody else.

I know Americans had seen jobs being shipped overseas; businesses and workers  not getting a level playing field when it came to trade. And that’s the reason  why I set up a trade task force to go after cheaters when it came to  international trade. That’s the reason why we have brought more cases against  China for violating trade rules than the other — the previous administration  had done in two terms. And we’ve won just about every case that we’ve filed,  that has been decided.

OBAMA: In fact, just recently steelworkers in Ohio and throughout the  Midwest — Pennsylvania — are in a position now to sell steel to China because  we won that case. We had a tire case in which they were flooding us with cheap  domestic tires — or — or cheap Chinese tires. And we put a stop to it and as a  consequence saved jobs throughout America. I have to say that Governor Romney  criticized me for being too tough in that tire case; said this wouldn’t be good  for American workers and that it would be protectionist.

But I tell you, those workers don’t feel that way. They feel as if they had  finally an administration who was going to take this issue seriously.

Over the long term, in order for us to compete with China, we’ve also got to  make sure, though, that we’re taking — taking care of business here at home. If  we don’t have the best education system in the world, if we don’t continue to  put money into research and technology that will allow us to create great  businesses here in the United States, that’s how we lose the competition.

And, unfortunately, Governor Romney’s budget and his proposals would not  allow us to make those investments.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Governor?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, it’s not government that makes business  successful. It’s not government investments that makes businesses grow and hire  people.

Let me also note that the greatest threat that the world faces, the greatest  national security threat is a nuclear Iran.

Let’s talk about China. China has an interest that’s very much like ours in  one respect, and that is they want a stable world. They don’t want war. They  don’t want to see protectionism. They don’t want to see the world break out into  — into various forms of chaos, because they have to — they have to manufacture  goods and put people to work and they have about 20,000 — 20 million, rather,  people coming out of the farms every year coming into the cities, needing  jobs.

So they want the economy to work and the world to be free and open. And so we  can be a partner with China. We don’t have to be an adversary in any way, shape  or form. We can work with them, we can collaborate with them, if they’re willing  to be responsible.

Now, they look at us and say, Is it a good idea to be with America? How  strong are we going to be? How strong is our economy? They look at the fact that  we owe ‘em a trillion dollars and owe other people $16 trillion in total,  including that.

ROMNEY: They look at our — our decision to — to cut back on our  military capabilities. A trillion dollars. The secretary of defense called these  trillion dollars of cuts to our military devastating. It’s not my term, it’s the  president’s own secretary of defense called these trillion dollars of cuts to  our military devastating. It’s not my term, it’s the president’s own Secretary  of Defense, called them devastating.

They look at America’s commitments around the world and they see what’s  happening, and they say, well, OK. Is America going to be strong? And the answer  is, yes, if I’m president, America will be very strong.

We’ll also make sure that we have trade relations with China that work for  us. I’ve watched year in and year out as companies have shut down and people  have lost their jobs because China has not played by the same rules, in part by  holding down artificially the value of their currency. It holds down the prices  of their goods. It means our goods aren’t as competitive and we lose jobs.  That’s got to end.

They’re making some progress; they need to make more. That’s why on day one,  i will label them a currency manipulator, which allows us to apply tariffs where  they’re taking jobs. They’re stealing our intellectual property, our patents,  our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our  goods.

They have to understand we want to trade with them. We want a world that’s  stable. We like free enterprise, but you got to play by the rules.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Governor, let me just ask you. If you declare them a  currency manipulator on day one, some people are — say you’re just going to  start a trade war with China on day one. Is that — isn’t there a risk that that  could happen?

ROMNEY: Well, they sell us about this much stuff every year, and we  sell them about this much stuff every year. So it’s pretty clear who doesn’t  want a trade war. And there’s one going on right now, which we don’t know about  it. It’s a silent one. And they’re winning.

We have enormous trade imbalance with China, and it’s worse this year than  last year, and it’s worse last year than the year before. And so we have to  understand that we can’t just surrender and lose jobs year in and year out. We  have to say to our friend in China, look, you guys are playing aggressively. We  understand it. But this can’t keep on going. You can’t keep on holding down the  value of your currency, stealing our intellectual property, counterfeiting our  products, selling them around the world, even to the United States.

I was with one company that makes valves and — and process industries and  they said, look, we were — we were having some valves coming in that — that  were broken and we had to repair them under warranty and we looked them and –  and they had our serial number on them. And then we noticed that there was more  than one with that same serial number. They were counterfeit products being made  overseas with the same serial number as a U.S. company, the same packaging,  these were being sold into our market and around the world as if they were made  by the U.S. competitor. This can’t go on.

I want a great relationship with China. China can be our partner, but — but  that doesn’t mean they can just roll all over us and steal our jobs on an unfair  basis.

OBAMA: Well, Governor Romney’s right, you are familiar with jobs being  shipped overseas because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs  overseas.

And, you know, that’s — you’re right. I mean that’s how our free market  works. But I’ve made a different bet on American workers.

If we had taken your advice Governor Romney about our auto industry, we’d be  buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China.

If we take your advice with respect to how we change our tax codes so that  companies that earn profits overseas don’t pay U.S. taxes compared to companies  here that are paying taxes. Now that’s estimated to create 800,000 jobs, the  problem is they won’t be here, they’ll be in places like China.

And if we’re not making investments in education and basic research, which is  not something that the private sector is doing at a sufficient pace right now  and has never done, then we will lose the (inaudible) in things like clean  energy technology.

Now with respect to what we’ve done with China already, U.S. exports have  doubled since I came into office, to China and actually currencies are at their  most advantageous point for U.S. exporters since 1993.

We absolutely have to make more progress and that’s why we’re going to keep  on pressing.

And when it comes to our military and Chinese security, part of the reason  that we were able to pivot to the Asia-Pacific region after having ended the war  in Iraq and transitioning out of Afghanistan, is precisely because this is going  to be a massive growth area in the future.

And we believe China can be a partner, but we’re also sending a very clear  signal that America is a Pacific power; that we are going to have a presence  there. We are working with countries in the region to make sure, for example,  that ships can pass through; that commerce continues. And we’re organizing trade  relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more  pressure about meeting basic international standards.

That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown in the region. That’s the kind of  leadership that we’ll continue to show.

ROMNEY: I just want to take one of those points, again, attacking me  as not talking about an agenda for — for getting more trade and opening up more  jobs in this country. But the president mentioned the auto industry and that  somehow I would be in favor of jobs being elsewhere. Nothing could be further  from the truth.

I’m a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car  company. I like American cars. And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto  industry. My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble  was not to start writing checks. It was President Bush that wrote the first  checks. I disagree with that. I said they need — these companies need to go  through a managed bankruptcy. And in that process, they can get government help  and government guarantees, but they need to go through bankruptcy to get rid of  excess cost and the debt burden that they’d — they’d built up.

And fortunately…


OBAMA: Governor Romney, that’s not what you said…


OBAMA: Governor Romney, you did not…

ROMNEY: You can take a look at the op-ed…


OBAMA: You did not say that you would provide government help.

ROMNEY: I said that we would provide guarantees, and — and that was  what was able to allow these companies to go through bankruptcy, to come out of  bankruptcy. Under no circumstances would I do anything other than to help this  industry get on its feet. And the idea that has been suggested that I would  liquidate the industry, of course not. Of course not.


OBAMA: Let’s check the record.


ROMNEY: That’s the height of silliness…


OBAMA: Let — let — let’s…


ROMNEY: I have never said I would liquidate…


OBAMA: …at the record.


ROMNEY: …I would liquidate the industry.


OBAMA: Governor, the people in Detroit don’t forget.


ROMNEY: …and — and that’s why I have the kind of commitment to  ensure that our industries in this country can compete and be successful. We in  this country can — can compete successfully with anyone in the world, and we’re  going to. We’re going to have to have a president, however, that doesn’t think  that somehow the government investing in — in car companies like Tesla and –  and Fisker, making electric battery cars. This is not research, Mr President,  these are the government investing in companies. Investing in Solyndra. This is  a company, this isn’t basic research. I — I want to invest in research.  Research is great. Providing funding to universities and think tanks is great.  But investing in companies? Absolutely not.


OBAMA: Governor?

ROMNEY: That’s the wrong way to go.


OBAMA: The fact of the matter is…


ROMNEY: I’m still speaking. So I want to make sure that we make — we  make America more competitive.

OBAMA: Yeah.

ROMNEY: And that we do those things that make America the most  attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses to grow.  But you’re investing in companies doesn’t do that. In fact it makes it less  likely for them to come here…

OBAMA: Governor?

ROMNEY: …because the private sector’s not going to invest in  a…


OBAMA: I’m — I’m — I’m happy.


ROMNEY: …company…


OBAMA: …to respond to you…


ROMNEY: …if — if you’re…


OBAMA: …you’ve had the floor for a while.


ROMNEY: …get someone else’s. OBAMA: The — look, I think anybody out  there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to, you know  airbrush history here. You were very clear that you would not provide,  government assistance to the U.S. auto companies, even if they went through  bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private marketplace. That  wasn’t true. They would have gone through a…


ROMNEY: You’re wrong…


OBAMA: …they would have gone through a…


ROMNEY: …you’re wrong.


OBAMA: No, I am not wrong. I am not wrong.


ROMNEY: People can look it up, you’re right.

OBAMA: People will look it up.


OBAMA: But more importantly it is true that in order for us to be  competitive, we’re going to have to make some smart choices right now.

Cutting our education budget, that’s not a smart choice. That will not help  us compete with China.

Cutting our investments in research and technology, that’s not a smart  choice. That will not help us compete with China.

Bringing down our deficit by adding $7 trillion of tax cuts and military  spending that our military is not asking for, before we even get to the debt  that we currently have, that is not going to make us more competitive.

Those are the kinds of choices that the American people face right now.  Having a tax code that rewards companies that are shipping jobs overseas instead  of companies that are investing here in the United States, that will not make us  more competitive.

And the one thing that I’m absolutely clear about is that after a decade in  which we saw drift, jobs being shipped overseas, nobody championing American  workers and American businesses, we’ve now begun to make some real progress.  What we can’t do is go back to the same policies that got us into such  difficulty in the first place. That’s why we have to move forward and not go  back.

ROMNEY: I couldn’t agree more about going forward, but I certainly  don’t want to go back to the policies of the last four years. The policies of  the last four years have seen incomes in America decline every year for middle  income families, now down $4,300 during your term. Twenty-three million  Americans still struggling to find a good job.

When you came to office 32 million people on food stamps. Today, 47 million  people on food stamps.

When you came to office, just over $10 trillion in debt, now $16 trillion in  debt. It hasn’t worked.

You said by now we’d be at 5.4 percent unemployment. We’re 9 million jobs  short of that. I’ve met some of those people. I’ve met them in Appleton,  Wisconsin. I met a young woman in — in Philadelphia who’s coming out of — out  of college, can’t find work.

I’ve been — Ann was with someone just the other day that was just weeping  about not being able to get work. It’s just a tragedy in a nation so prosperous  as ours, that the last four years have been so hard.

And that’s why it’s so critical, that we make America once again the most  attractive place in the world to start businesses, to build jobs, to grow the  economy. And that’s not going to happen by just hiring teachers.

Look, I love to — I love teachers, and I’m happy to have states and  communities that want to hire teachers do that. By the way, I don’t like to have  the federal government start pushing its weight deeper and deeper into our  schools. Let the states and localities do that. I was a governor. The federal  government didn’t hire our teachers.


ROMNEY: But I love teachers. But I want to get our private sector  growing and I know how to do it.

SCHIEFFER: I think we all love teachers.


SCHIEFFER: Gentlemen, thank you so much for a very vigorous debate. We  have come to the end. It is time for closing statements,

I believe you’re first, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Well, thank you very much, Bob, Governor Romney, and to Lynn  University. You’ve now heard three debates, months of campaigning and way too  many TV commercials. And now you’ve got a choice. Over the last four years we’ve  made real progress digging our way out of policies that gave us two prolonged  wars, record deficits and the worst economic crisis since the Great  Depression.

And Governor Romney wants to take us back to those policies, a foreign policy  that’s wrong and reckless, economic policies that won’t create jobs, won’t  reduce our deficit, but will make sure that folks at the very top don’t have to  play by the same rules that you do.

And I’ve got a different vision for America. I want to build on our  strengths. And I’ve put forward a plan to make sure that we’re bringing  manufacturing jobs back to our shores by rewarding companies and small  businesses that are investing here, not overseas.

I want to make sure we’ve got the best education system in the world. And  we’re retaining our workers for the jobs of tomorrow.

I want to control our own energy by developing oil and natural gas but also  the energy sources of the future.

Yes, I want to reduce our deficit by cutting spending that we don’t need but  also by asking the wealthy to do a little bit more so that we can invest in  things like research and technology that are the key to a 21st century  economy.

As Commander in Chief, I will maintain the strongest military in the world,  keep faith with our troops and go after those who would do us harm. but after a  decade of war, I think we all recognize we’ve got to do some nation building  here at home, rebuilding our roads, our bridges and especially caring for our  Veterans who sacrificed so much for our freedom.

And we’ve been through tough times but we always bounce back because of our  character, because we pull together and if I have the privilege of being your  president for another four years, I promise you I will always listen to your  voices. I will fight for your families and I will work every single day to make  sure that America continues to be the greatest nation on earth.

Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: Governor?

ROMNEY: Thank you.

Bob, Mr. President, folks at Lynn University, good to be with you. I’m  optimistic about the future. I’m excited about our prospects as a nation. I want  to see peace. I want to see growing peace in this country. It’s our  objective.

We have an opportunity to have real leadership. America’s going to have that  kind of leadership and continue to promote principles of peace to make a world a  safer place and make people in this country more confident that their future is  secure. I also want to make sure that we get this economy going. And there are  two very different paths the country can take. One is a path represented by the  president, which at the end of four years would mean we’d have $20 trillion in  debt heading towards Greece. I’ll get us on track to a balanced budget.

The president’s path will mean continuing declining in take-home pay. I want  to make sure our take-home pay turns around and starts to grow.

The president’s path will mean continuing declining in take-home pay. I want  to make sure take-home pay turns around and starts to grow. The president’s path  means 20 million people out of work struggling for a good job. I’ll get people  back to work with 12 million new jobs.

I’m going to make sure that we get people off of food stamps, not by cutting  the program, but by getting them good jobs.

America’s going to come back, and for that to happen, we’re going to have to  have a president who can work across the aisle. I was in a state where my  legislature was 87 percent Democrat. I learned how to get along on the other  side of the aisle. We’ve got to do that in Washington. Washington is broken. I  know what it takes to get this country back, and will work with good Democrats  and good Republicans to do that.

This nation is the hope of the earth. We’ve been blessed by having a nation  that’s free and prosperous thanks to the contributions of the greatest  generation. They’ve held a torch for the world to see — the torch of freedom  and hope and opportunity. Now, it’s our turn to take that torch. I’m convinced  we’ll do it.

We need strong leadership. I’d like to be that leader with your support. I’ll  work with you. I’ll lead you in an open and honest way, and I ask for your vote.  I’d like to be the next president of the United States to support and help this  great nation and to make sure that we all together remain America as the hope of  the earth.

Thank you so much.

SCHIEFFER: Gentlemen, thank you both so much. That brings an end to  this year’s debates and we want to thank Lynn University and its students for  having us. As I always do at the end of these debates, I leave you with the  words of my mom, who said: “Go vote; it’ll make you feel big and strong.”

Good night.

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